Like other toy dogs, Chihuahuas are prone to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. The condition is more common in puppies but appears in adult dogs. Larger dogs with hypoglycemia might suffer liver failure, but that's not usual in Chihuahuas. Their worst-case scenario is brain damage or death.
Your little dog's brain requires glucose for normal functioning. Without sufficient amounts, hypoglycemia results. Puppies, especially toy breeds, can't fully regulate the amount of glucose needed by their bodies. Puppyhood is a time of life when their glucose requirements are particularly high. Minor lifestyle changes that wouldn't bother an older Chi can bring on this life-threatening condition. If your Chi frequently endures hypoglycemia attacks, brain damage can result.
If your little guy appears uncoordinated, listless, disoriented, extremely tired for no good reason or very cold, his blood sugar levels could be plummeting. His gums, skin or ears might develop a blue tinge. If his blood sugar levels aren't raised immediately, he could go into seizures or die. This is one time you'll have to medicate him yourself, to possibly save his life. Always keep corn syrup on hand, or an oral glucose product recommended by your vet, to rub into the dog's gums when you suspect he's experiencing hypoglycemia. If he doesn't respond, get him to the vet immediately. Your vet can give him intravenous dextrose.
If your Chi repeatedly suffers hypoglycemic attacks, your vet will conduct tests to determine whether underlying problems exist. While liver shunt is one possible cause, it's more common in other toy breeds than the Chihuahua. A congenital abnormality, liver shunt occurs when the blood doesn't flow from the gastrointestinal tract into the liver for cleansing but heads directly into the bloodstream. If your dog has a liver shunt, corrective surgery is necessary. Other underlying problems triggering attacks include parasite infestation or bacterial infection. Your vet can prescribe medication to get rid of the parasites and antibiotics for the bacteria.
Make sure your Chihuahua puppy always has food available. Keep him warm, and monitor him carefully after any stressful event -- such as a routine trip to the vet or a vaccination, strenuous play or the addition of a pet into the household. As he gets older, past the age of 3 months, you don't have to leave food out all the time but give him several small feedings daily, rather than one or two larger meals.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.